Below is a list of the session topics that have been proposed so far. When you register, you will be asked to include a short description of a session topic that you'd like to discuss. If you have already registered and would like to suggest a new or additional topic, you can send it directly to Ross Mulcare.

At the start of the conference we will vote on session topics, ensuring that the issues that are of interest to the most people get discussed at the event.

Session Topics

  • I'd like to discuss the future of transcribing digitized manuscripts. Current OCR methods are suboptimal at best and machine learning (handwriting recognition) is in its infancy. Do either of these technical solutions have promise, or will we continue to look to crowdsourcing and outsourcing the labor required to transcribe colonial-era documents?
  • Selection for digitization. What should we digitize and how? How do researchers and teachers like to search for these manuscripts? What type of metadata and content will be most helpful? Full transcriptions? Proper nouns and dates?...

  • How might virtual reality play a role in engaging with mss. materials?

  • How can digitized primary sources be used most effectively by teachers (K-12, undergraduate, graduate)? What kinds of in-class activities, at-home assignments, or research projects do teachers envision creating for students using these kinds of digitized collections? 

  • What are the benefits and drawbacks of using digitized sources? 

  • Uncovering the stories of certain historical actors - women, people of color (especially enslaved), Native Americans, the poor - can be challenging in the study of colonial North America. What kinds of digitized collections in Harvard's libraries can help uncover the histories of these groups? 

  • What kinds of historical events, subjects, or themes are attendees (teachers, researchers, archivists, and others) most interested in researching in the digitized Harvard CNAP collections? What do they see as current trends in the historiography of colonial North America?

  • I'd be interested in a session in which participants can each work through a sample search in the Harvard library catalog/CNAP website on a topic of their choice. For example: I'm interested in researching property ownership in colonial New England. What kinds of sources exist on that subject? [e.g. bills of sale, deeds, wills, family papers] How can I limit/expand my search with the tools available on the website?

  • I would be interested to hear whether researchers (of all types) prefer to see more more digitized manuscripts without transcriptions and detailed item-level metadata or fewer items that are transcribed and described in detail.  These are the tradeoffs we have to consider when deciding what collections to digitize and how to present them.

  • What are the possibilities for "data mining" with images?

  • outreach, conferences, unconferences, virtual discussions -- how to generate scholarly discussion about digital resources, how to connect to user communities, connections among academic and public/K12 users

  • How can our metadata and interfaces better support scholarly integrity through citation of digital objects.

  • Can we talk about new ways for patrons to search and browse with digital materials? We too often assume that patrons want to search with terms we know well as information professionals, such as subject heading or artist name, when they may actually want to search by terms that we are less adept at employing in our records, such as color.

  • Availability vs Accessibility: is simply putting images of digitized materials online enough? What is the best way to provide access to digitized materials for all levels of researchers from K-12 students to intellectually curious adults?

  • How do we put the user first in thinking about project management? What are challenges, benefits, best practices, for managing digital project development from the perspective of the user? What are some ways to embed user perspectives from the very beginning of a digitization project? How can we ensure that users aren’t always “what’s next” but instead “what’s first”?

  • Visualizing historical data (mapping tools, such as Carto) Data cleanup, scraping (OpenRefine), etc.

  • I am interested in the Spanish presence in North America, particularly in relation to women, social life, and the creation of new identities after crossing the Atlantic. I would like to learn about different ways of finding documents that can help us map the transatlantic cultural and historical relations between Spain and North America.

  • What non-traditional uses can 17th & 18th century digitized material be put to? How can institutions encourage and support that research? What unexpected researchers or research have you seen with your documents?

  • I would like to see a session brainstorming uses to of technology to leverage digitized images and their accompanying metadata to create visually interesting and dynamic views of Harvard's amazing collections (as an example the MOMA created this site showing connections between artists and their works during the abstract period).

  • Can digitized materials be presented in a way that also provides needed instructional material--such as a paleography guide, a historical context guide, an abbreviation guide? How can such materials be co-created with digitization? How can those guides be geared to different audiences (K-12, college student, scholar)? How can the university leverage its students to help with assessing the need for such material and help to create that material?

  • 1. Metadata and Manuscripts: How much is enough? 2. Transcription and Tagging Platforms: How to Decide which ones to use

  • accessibility of digital resources (both in terms of open access vs. paywalls, access to technology, etc. and in terms of physical demands on creators, designers, and users) (I am very interested in and committed to digital solutions to manuscript accessibility but have physical issues which often make digital technologies difficult, painful, or impossible to access.)

  • hidden labor and other costs involved in creating digital resources, especially as it affects long term maintenance and sustainability

  • strategies for making manuscripts legible as more than repositories of historical evidence (This I write from the perspective of a literature teacher and scholar who emphasizes not just the textual transcription but the full analysis of the material text of manuscript literature.)